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<nettime> “We are facing an extreme form of extractive capit
barbara strebel on Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:54:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> “We are facing an extreme form of extractive capit

   Saskia said in

   Interview. 'We are facing an extreme form of extractive capitalism,'
   said the American sociologist Saskia Sassen in an interview with il

   A world unified by the golden rule: expropriation

   written by Benedetto Vecchi March 21, 2017

   The exclusion of significant parts of the world population from active
   life is a sad reality today and will be for years to come. That's the
   thesis that Saskia Sassen, a sociologist focused on globalization and
   global cities, describes in her last two books, Territory, Authority,
   Rights and Expulsions. If the first is a reflection on the dynamic
   relationship between global and local realities, the second analyzes
   the nature of extractive capitalism, one of the emerging trends in the
   world economy, where the expulsion of people from the places where they
   lived and land-grabbing are elements of a widespread practice of the
   private appropriation of natural wealth and knowledge.

   The expropriation of African, Asian and even European regions to be put
   in the hands of agro-industrial multinational companies and the
   plundering of natural resources are recurring elements in the
   extractive capitalism chronicles. Here, finance is the protagonist of a
   wealth expropriation never before seen in history. Sassen's analysis
   outlines a future in which the trend of population banishment has the
   features of a social apocalypse.

   From her most recent essays, it's clear that Sassen is engaged in
   countering a reductionist reading of globalization ' a parenthesis
   about to be closed ' to sharpen criticism on the extractive capitalism
   that opposes isolationism and economic nationalism. This interview is
   compiled from a conversation during her visit to Rome and numerous
   email exchanges.

   One of the refrains repeated by the media is that globalization has
   reached its terminus, and the nation state will return to the center.
   How do you interpret this phase of the global economy?

   We are in the midst of a global upheaval, due to the economic crisis
   and the strengthening of a capitalism that I qualify as extractive. It
   is shaping a new geography of world power. In this new geography of
   power, new intermediate spaces were formed between the global and local
   realities. These areas formed the space where global and local
   realities have lost the opacity, which differentiated them to become
   distinct but interdependent moments with each other. They are 'frontier
   areas' that have nothing to do with geography, but are the places, the
   dynamics that lead to decisions that overwhelm the work of both the
   supranational institutions as well as the national and local ones. Over
   time, they popped the old division between North and South of the
   planet, between East and West, between central and peripheral countries
   of capitalism. Let me be clear, it is not that the frontiers have
   disappeared, but were jumped over in the sense that they are no longer
   central. Therefore, it is not relevant whether or not the nation-state
   will return, which has already undergone changes in constitutional
   setups, in the balance between the judicial, legislative, and executive
   powers, to be in line with the needs of world economy. It surrendered
   that part of its sovereignty over a given territory.

   In the exercise of global governance, the 'border areas' to which I
   referred are critical. They bend to their will the national sovereignty
   and the internationally defined rules on financial flows, human rights,
   environmental protection. They also contribute to shaping a new and yet
   ever-changing international division of labor.

   Donald Trump won the election by appealing to patriotism. He pointed to
   China and Europe as obstacles to the U.S. economy. He promised to bring
   back home the jobs sent overseas by the US industry. Can we consider
   Trump a president who wants de-globalization? Or more realistically, as
   the president of the decline of the US as the only superpower in the

   Right now, I cannot say if Donald Trump will be the president of the
   American decline. It is early to say. But I know that he has made
   dangerous decisions because of their racist content. I never imagined
   that this could happen, but it happened. In the U.S., we are
   experiencing a feeling of loss, maybe even disbelief which is maybe
   similar to what you experienced with Berlusconi in Italy: only that
   what the leader of Forza Italy did is a breeze compared to what Trump
   promises to do.

   His positions are not welcomed by the liberal elite. That's well known,
   but we cannot ignore the fact that, in the recent past, the liberals
   did not effectively oppose the growth of poverty and have not done much
   in support of policies of the working class and the middle class: all
   of which Trump says he wants to do.

   In your book Expulsions, extractive capitalism is characterized by
   plundering the wealth of a nation and then leaving the country. This
   might be apply to some natural resources ' oil and other natural
   resources. The speech becomes more complicated in regards to
   land-grabbing, biodiversity, intellectual property. But if we focus on
   big data, the thesis of extractive capitalism as a brutal predatory
   practice becomes problematic. Facebook, Google, Amazon will never go
   away because the data is produced online by the activity of men and

   The land-grabbing, biodiversity, intellectual property, and the digital
   platforms can certainly be considered examples of extractive
   capitalism, but it is finance where the emerging pattern of extractive
   capitalism is represented.

   Banking activities offer services, but above all they lend money and
   that's why they charge interest. That's normal. What's different is
   that new financial services are aimed at extracting value from all
   economic activity, from production to distribution to the sale of goods
   and services.

   The heart of the Western Economic style has seen a shift from a
   paradigm which had production and mass consumption at the core to a
   reality where the spending power of individuals or families is the
   subject of attention from financial companies, which aim to exploit
   this spending power to produce revenues and profits. In recent years,
   much has been written and read about the privatization of social
   services and consumer credit. Well, finance extracts value from
   consumption, from access to cash for the purchase of social services,
   but also from financing companies, from the stock market, the public
   debt of the states. Financial firms have developed sophisticated tools
   for each of these aspects and when the vein of the value is low, they
   leave the field, indifferent to poverty, the implosion of social bonds
   and the failure to finance nation states. It is a radical departure
   from the past.

   This rapacity of finance has nihilistic characteristics, don't you

   I would like to underline the change of perspective. Consumption was
   always an integral part of capitalism, but we are facing a
   radicalization of this role. The same applies to the financialization
   of the welfare state, which was the prerogative of the national state
   in the past. Now they are individuals and families who have to buy it,
   borrowing from financial firms. However, the nation states have seen
   their deficits grow and to avoid collapse and failure, they have
   resorted to financial companies. This means that much of the Internal
   Revenue tax goes to pay interest on debt. That is, we are facing an
   extreme form of extractive capitalism. The tools developed, the
   software used, the devices used cover all forms of capital. This is the
   dynamic that is changing globalization during the past 20 years.
   Therefore, I do not believe that we are entering a phase of
   de-globalization, but of a variation of it. The problem is how to
   imagine the answers to everything. And there is a huge delay. But I do
   not say that it is impossible to fill it.

   Benedetto Vecchi

   Originally published in Italian on March 19, 2017 

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